by Neil Prior, Lucca Bilyard & Alastair Whatley
M1 (National League Premier Division)– after rocking the Div 1 South league last year securing promotion three weeks from the season end, Kwan Browne and his team can expect a much sterner challenge this year as they push for a return invite to the European Hockey League, competing at the top of the EH pyramid. Before then they have 3 stages of a league, which splits after Christmas then splits again, to get through leading up to the fabled play-offs held last year at Surbiton. Before we get there we have games against the likes of Hampstead & Westminster, Beeston, Wimbledon and of course champions Old Georgians to look forward to. Look out for players like last years top scorer Teague Marcano back from competing for Trinidad and Tobago over the summer and GB’s Will Calnan coming into the forward line. Kwan and his assistant Huw Stevens will have their work cut out but they have the strongest squad seen for years to call on and a captain in John Sterlini with the experience and ‘Gate nohow to conquer all.
M2 (London Premier Division)– new coach Chris Pearce has led a month long pre-season for this new look 2’s team under Captain Andy Fell who are tasked with finally conquering the summit of this notoriously difficult league to escape. Last season was one of two halves an unbeaten start followed a shaky back 9 in which numbers vacillated and results followed. The hope this season is for a strong start and stronger finish leading to promotion up to the National League for the first time in the 2’s long and illustrious history. The 2’s can draw from the 1’s wider player pool and can expect their numbers buoyed by as many as 12 members of the extended M1 squad.
M3 (London Div 2N) – after a mid-table finish last season, the M3s will be looking to do much better this season and get back to challenging for promotion to Div 1. Player-wise the team are set to be big beneficiaries of the swell in top-flight personnel in the teams above them, meaning that the severe competition for places at the high performance level will result in as strong a third team line-up as has been seen at Southgate in a long time. The M3s season gets underway with an away game against newly-promoted PHC Chiswick 2.
M4 (London Div 2N) – our M4s narrowly avoided relegation last season and this lucky escape has spurred them on to achieve at least a mid-table finish this season. Captained again by their mercurial leader – Alessandro Onano – they too will have a stronger line-up this season with greater emphasis on training attendance and creating that killer-instinct. The M4 season starts at home against London Wayfarers Vikings who are always tough competitors and top-four finishers. This week the M4s will welcome M1 Assistant Coach – Huw Stevens – to their line-up in his league-playing debut for the Club.
M5 (London Div 4NW) – after a number of seasons as M5s captain and talisman, Dave Richardson has passed over the skipper’s armband to last season’s 4A captain Jon Huddleston. In his role Jon will be aiming to guide his team up the table and to challenge for promotion in order to close the division gap between themselves and the M4s. With improving young talent getting bigger and stronger, personnel changes are likely and adjustment to the new regime will need to be quick and efficient in order to get off to a good start against Richmond Griffins at home at 3pm on Saturday.
M6 (London Div 5NW) – a new name, a new league and a new captain. Yes, Southgate have jumped ship from the East League for this season, re-named the 4A to M6, have been gratefully placed in Division 5 to keep hot-on-the-heels of the M5s and we welcome the return of Will Hargrove as a team captain after a couple of seasons providing invaluable support to others. Having moved across from East to London leagues, the player pathway and progression opportunities will open up. The M6s start their campaign away against the unpredictable students that are Imperial Medical 1.
M7 (London Div 6NW) – once again we are ringing the changes. The M7 are the rebranded 5A and, like the M6s, have moved across from the East to the London League. After several excellent seasons at the helm, Club Chairman Neil Murphy with all his other club responsibilities, has stood aside this year in favour of another hard-working committee member – Fixtures Secretary – Mark Thomsett. Mark cut his captaincy teeth last week by leading the M8s (see below) to a 7-0 victory over St Albans, so already we know that Neil has left the role to the right man! The M7s have their inaugural London League fixture away to Osterley 2s this Saturday.
M8s (East Div 8SW) – with the London League not going quite as deep as the East, we have kept our entry-level team designed for our most senior players, our new-to-adult hockey youngsters, Back-to-Hockey players and anyone else that is otherwise at a loose end in the East League. In their wisdom and without consultation with clubs, the East League have done-way-with so-called team “nicknames”. This means that the long-established and recognised name of Tankards has disappeared from the fixture list. The M8s are designated as a “Development” team and with this we really do want to encourage anyone that fancies playing to sign-up and develop their hockey skills. At this stage the role of Captain will be chosen on a week-by-week basis depending on availability and until someone comes forward to take control. Already a week into the East League season, the M8s play at home on Saturday against MBDA 1, hoping to double their points tally after last week’s win away at St Albans.
Titans O50s (South Masters O50 Premier) – with great thanks to the double-act of Jatin Patel and Laurence Taylor for their spell as Captain and Vice-Captain respectively for the Titans, the baton has been seamlessly passed to Greg Wildisen and Ben Turner to take over for the 2023/4 season. Ben will do all the work and Greg will take all the credit! The off-season for the Titans has been spent recruiting hard. Several new names have appeared on the newly-created Titans Spond sub-group and we look forward to hearing more about the likes of Julian Barker, Malcolm Emmerson, Robin White and Bill Anderson as they bed into the Club. For starters the Titans play away at Spencer this Saturday.
Magnums O60s (South Masters O60 Premier) – Cliff Peck has once-again stepped forward to lead the Magnums this season. Another year on and a few more long-time club members become eligible for O60s hockey. Being aged 58 in 2024 will qualify you, so this is likely to lead to selection discussions aplenty as the season evolves and swaps between Magnums and M8s are negotiated. To get things going this week Cliff’s Men (without Cliff – attending his son’s wedding in Wales – fair enough!) will play H&W Grandmasters as the first match on the show pitch at 11:30.